Oriental Museum

Oriental Museum
Durham University
Elvet Hill




All enquiries



All enquiries

0191 334 5694


0191 334 5640

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
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The Oriental Museum is the only museum in the North of Britain devoted solely to the art and archaeology of the Orient. The remarkable collections reveal the great cultures of Asia; the Near and Middle East; and North Africa.

Highlights include the Chinese and Ancient Egyptian collections, which are Designated Collections of national importance.

Venue Type:


Opening hours

Mon - Fri 10.00-17.00
Sat - Sun & Bank Holidays 12.00-17.00

Closed: Between Christmas & New Year

Admission charges

Adults: £1.50
Children 5-16 and Over 60s: 75p
Family Ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children): £3.50
Free on production of relevant ID: Friends of the Oriental Museum, students in higher education, Durham University staff, Armed Forces, MA and NACF members

Additional info

See website for details

The Oriental Museum's collections number over 23,500 objects and range in date from prehistoric artefacts to contemporary arts. The collections cover the history and arts of the great cultures of Ancient Egypt, China, Japan, South and South East Asia and Islamic North Africa. The Chinese and Ancient Egyptian collections are Designated Collections of national importance.

The Egyptian collection is one of the best Egyptology resources in Britain. It ranges from the Pre-Dynastic to the Coptic periods in date and includes a wide selection of objects ranging from monumental sculpture to woven sandals. Numerous items of exceptional quality and international significance are included. Particular highlights are a unique 18th Dynasty boxwood carving of a Nubian servant girl; the 18th Dynasty polychrome sycamore boxes of Perpawty; and a fine 13th Dynasty granite statue of the vizier Paser.

The Chinese collection is one of the most comprehensive in Europe. It is a significant and representative collection of pieces from earlier dynasties as well as numerous fine examples from later dynasties. The museum recently purchased (2007) a portfolio of 60 contemporary Chinese prints, representing the work of many of China’s best contemporary printmakers.

Collection details

World Cultures, Weapons and War, Religion, Decorative and Applied Art, Costume and Textiles, Coins and Medals, Archives, Archaeology

Key artists and exhibits

  • 4th Duke of Northumberland's collection of Egyptian antiquities
  • Wellcome Collection of Ancient Egyptian objects
  • Malcolm MacDonald Collection of Chinese Ceramics
  • Sir Charles Hardinge Collection of Chinese jades and bronzes
  • Henry De Laszlo Collection Chinese Collection
  • Designated Collection
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
traces of china art installation at oriental museum

Traces of China: material, mystery, memory

  • 28 July — 16 November 2014 *on now

In 2011 and 2013, Sarah Gee visited South East China as part of her practice-led PhD research in ceramics at the University of Sunderland. Her interest in clay as a material of transformation has generated a dialogue between the permanent ceramic collection at the Oriental Museum and the traces of China (and china) which she brought back from Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces as an inspiration for her work.

The installation explores the importance of clay and ceramic as a means of communicating culture, ideas and emotions, articulating Sarah’s personal experience of China, its people and its ceramics:

•the material itself – porcelain, glaze, Yi Xing teapots and clay dust
•the mystery – the skills behind the making of exquisite Chinese ceramics, and the persistence of potters in the West in seeking to uncover their secrets
•the memory - both the skills handed down through generations of Chinese potters enabling the mastery of their material to create beautiful, priceless pieces, and Sarah’s personal memories of visiting dragon kilns, potters’ workshops, markets, museums and modern factories during her two extended visits.

In curating Traces of China, Sarah has involved two other makers, Veronica Newman and Robert Winter, and the installation incorporates the personal dialogues of all three with the materials and aesthetics of Chinese ceramics.

Suitable for

  • Any age
  • Family friendly


Normal museum admission charges apply.



Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Sita Sings the Blues film showing at Oriental Museum

Sita Sings the Blues

  • 27 October 2014 6:30-8pm

Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina is an animator whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by email. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the Indian epic the Ramayana. Love, loss and separation abound in this film set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Sita Sings the Blues truly earns its tagline as "the Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told."

Directed, written, produced, designed and animated by Nina Paley, the film has received much critical acclaim since its release in 2008.

Tickets are free but bookable. Please book via Eventbrite at www.theorientalmuseum.eventbrite.co.uk/

Please arrive at Oriental Museum at 6pm, film showing starts at 6.30pm.

Sita Sings the Blues is 82 minutes long. No official classification has been given for this film but parental guidance is advised as there are some scenes of a mild sexual nature.

Suitable for

  • 18+
  • Not suitable for children
  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 11-13



Lucky coins

Lucky Coins

  • 29 October 2014 1-3pm

Chinese coin trees are believed to bring good luck. Get creative and make your own!

Suitable for children aged 5-11 years. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Suitable for

  • Especially for children
  • 5-6
  • 7-10
  • Family friendly
  • Especially for children


Normal museum admission prices apply.



Pharoah sarcophagus

Marvellous Mummies

  • 31 October 2014 1-3pm

Learn about mummification in ancient Egypt, and make your own canopic jar - complete with organs inside! Drop in session for children aged 5-11 years.

Suitable for

  • Especially for children
  • 5-6
  • 7-10
  • Especially for children


Normal museum admission applies.



Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

Life in Ancient Egypt

A schools workshop looking at life in Ancient Egypt. The children make extensive use of our galleries and handling collection to explore the subject in depth. There is also the opportunity to participate in role play and mummify some fruit.
(Group size: normally 30 but more by arrangement; Duration: 4 hours including lunch; Level: KS2)


  • Durham University Museums and Special Collections

How to obtain

For information about booking a visit, please see our website - www.dur.ac.uk/4schools/indexpages/visits.html

Marvels of China

In this schools workshop session children will have the chance to participate in a wide range of activities from exloring the symbolism in Chinese art to having a go at producing their own scrolls. Students will also have the opportunity to take part in a gallery trail, handle original artefacts and engage in fun craft activities.
(Group size: normally up to 30 but larger classes by arrangement; Duration: 2-4 hours; Level: KS2)


  • Durham University Museums and Special Collections

Treasures of the Oriental Museum, Durham University

On 30th June 2010 the Oriental Museum launched a major new publication to commemorate the Golden Jubilee. This book includes 50 short essays by curators, artists, students, researchers and collectors from the UK and around the world. Eash essay offers a different view on an object from the collections accompanied by all new colour photography of these stunning objects.


  • TMI Group

How to obtain

Order forms can be downloaded from our website, or you can order via the Durham University Retail Office website: www.dur.ac.uk/university.shop/

Turning Japanese

This schools workshop session offers students the chance to experience a wide range of activities aimed at increading knowledge and understanding of Japanese culture. Activities include a gallery trail, making a Japanese kite, and origami. Schools can also combine this session with a visit to the nearby Botanic Garden to look at the plants that inspire Japanese art.
(Group size: noramlly one class but larger groups may be able to be accommodated; Duration: 2-4 hours; Level: KS2)


  • Durham University Museums and Special Collections